The First Communion on the Moon

(July 20th, 1969)


The Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, commander (on left); Michael Collins, command module pilot (mid); and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, lunar module pilot.

The crewmen leave the Kennedy Space Center's Manned Spacecraft Operations Building during the pre-launch countdown, then are loaded into the van for the drive to Launch Complex 39A. July 16, 1969. Liftoff (below) of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission (the 363 ft. tall space vehicle) was launched from Kennedy Space Center at 9:37 a.m. from the launch tower midst the smoke and flames from the five engines of the Saturn V rocket which generate 7.5 million pounds of thrust.

Twelve minutes later, the astronauts are in orbit 120 miles above the Earth at 17,400 mph...beginning their four day journey to the Moon, nearly a quarter of a million miles away. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first two men to successfully navigate from the Earth to the Moon, walk on the surface, gather samples of lunar rocks and return safely to Earth in July of 1969. Astronaut Michael Collins had remained in the command module in orbit while his fellow crewmen explored the lunar surface.

Unknown to many people is that Astronaut Buzz Aldrin held a communion service on the moon's surface shortly after landing the Lunar Module "Eagle" on the Sea of Tranquility.  When the Eagle touched down on the moon on Sunday July 20, 1969,  Aldrin took out the communion elements that he had brought along for the trip and put them on a small table.  He then radioed the Houston Space Center to request a few moments of silence. "This is the (lunar module) pilot, I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way." On the moon's surface Aldrin opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. He poured the wine into the chalice his church had given him. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. He then read (John 15:5), "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" and took communion..."The Eagle’s metal body creaked. I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”

His story was originally in an October 1970  article in Guideposts magazine, followed by the 1999 issue of the publication commemorating the 20th anniversary of the lunar landing. The memoirs of Buzz Aldrin and the Tom Hanks’s Emmy-winning HBO mini-series, From the Earth to the Moon (1998), made people aware of this act of Christian worship 235,000 miles from Earth.

Earthrise viewed prior to lunar landing.

The lunar module "Eagle," now separated, as seen from the command module before its descent to the surface.  At an altitude of 500 feet, the astronauts discovered the smooth plain they expected was actually a crater lined with boulders. Armstrong then piloted to a more suitable spot as landing fuel ran very low.

View just after landing on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility on the surface of the moon.

Telecast of Neil Armstrong descending the lunar module ladder (below) just before taking his first step on the moon. The TV camera automatically deployed after Armstrong pulled on a special ring. As he stepped onto the moon's surface he proclaimed, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Neil about to make man's first foot print on the moon.......

Buzz Aldrin stands before and salutes the United States flag. The lunar module's on the left. Many foot prints are now all over the fine grained, powder-like soil.


Buzz Aldrin's helmet reflects the lunar module and Neil Armstrong taking his picture. Neil was the official camera guy who took many photos of Buzz.

Buzz Aldrin following deployment of scientific experiments including a seismograph for detecting lunar quakes and a laser reflector to bounce back beams from Earth to calculate the exact distance to the moon. The astronauts spent a total of 2.5 hours walking on the lunar surface in gravity only one-sixth as powerful as Earth's. They then went back into the lunar module to rest and prepare for departure.

The lunar module making its docking approach to the command module (CSM) in lunar orbit as Earth rises above the horizon. The July 21 departure after 22 hours on the moon.  Firing of the ascent engine as the lunar module ascent stage is launched. The descent stage serves as a launch base and remains on the lunar surface. 

Crescent earth image visible during their return trip.

July 24 splashdown (after 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes) the command module afloat in the Pacific Ocean, 825 miles from Hawaii. The astronauts are wearing biological isolation suits as a precaution against any moon germ contamination. Below  President Richard M. Nixon greets the quarantined Apollo 11 Astronauts aboard the U.S.S. Hornet. Listen to his message from the White House.

In Hawaii, the Mobile Quarantine Facility containing the astronauts is offloaded from the U.S.S. Hornet, and then transported to NASA in Houston. After weeks of quarantine at the Lunar Receiving Lab, (where they were tested for any signs of exotic infection) they were finally given a clean bill of health and release from quarantine on August 10.

A ticker tape parade for the Hero Astronauts who then made a world tour of 25 countries in 35 days. The Apollo program had fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's wish to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. They succeeded doing it just five months and ten days before the end of the decade.

A close view of the collected moon rocks, classified by Geologists as (igneous) possibly being formed by melting from a lunar volcanic flow, or from a large meteorite crashing into the moon. Some of the rocks picked up by the astronauts were undisturbed on the lunar surface for a million years or more. In September of 1969 the first public exhibition was opened in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Thousands lined up to get a glimpse of a moon rock, but many found it disappointingly ordinary. They look just like many we have right here on earth.